Creating a Story
Last week Doug and I went to see David Byrne & St. Vincent at the newly restored Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall here in Portland. I want to admit right upfront that I had moderate to low expectations. I love David Byrne just fine, and I like St. Vincent, though I didn't know much about her. We entered the beautiful theater and took our seats. They were pretty good seats. As soon as we sat down, Doug got up to get us drinks. Literally 30 seconds after he left, a couple took their seats behind us. The woman, whose seat was directly behind Doug's, said to the man she was with, "I hope some tall asshole doesn't sit in front of me."
Doug is 6'3".
I immediately started to create a hypotheical story about what could happen when Doug returned. I won't go into the entire story, but it ended up with the four of us in a huge screaming argument that would have ended with physical violence had I not caught myself. I immediately brought myself back into the theater, which was filled with sounds and people and lights and anticipation.
During the time that I was creating the story I was no longer experiencing my environment. I no longer heard the sounds around me. I was no longer present. I laughed at myself. When Doug returned to his seat nothing was said. No argument happened. We did not get into a fist fight with the couple behind us.
I would ask if you can relate to this kind of story making, but I already know the truth: it's part of our human experience to create stories-- true or untrue. Since then, I've been aware more and more of when that happens-- walking down the street, in the grocery store, riding my bike. Spontaneous stories start being told. What I've noticed is that in those moments my body and breath are reacting as if the story in my head were actually true.
Here is the invitation: Notice when you check out from the present moment and start creating stories-- ones where you relive the past, twist the present, or predict the future. When you notice this phenomenon, very simply and gently bring yourself back to the present moment by noticing your environment, connecting to your breath, and listening to the sounds around you. Then continue with what you were doing, embodying a state of being that more completely matches the present moment.
Omar Khayyam says, "Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life." I like to modify this quote slightly because I don't think it's always possible to be happy, but I do think that it's possible to be present. So. Be present for this moment. This moment is your life.